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What Federal Gun Restrictions Do I Need to Know?

What Federal Gun Restrictions Do I Need to Know?

While California has its own set of rules for gun ownership, there are a few Federal laws that can prohibit someone from owning a firearm even if they meet all of California’s regulations. 

Outlined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20), these Federal stipulations include: 

  • Anyone convicted of or under indictment for a crime punishable by a jail sentence of over one year
  • Anyone found guilty of California Penal Code 646.9 PC regarding stalking
  • A fugitive from the law
  • Anyone dishonorably discharged from a branch of the United States military
  • Illegal aliens 
  • Anyone who has renounced their United State citizenship

Let’s take a closer look at each of these. 

Conviction or Indictment of a Crime

Say you’re arrested, tried and found guilty of a crime in a state other than California. If your sentence resulted in more than one year in jail, under Federal law you’re prohibited from ever owning a firearm. 

This would also happen if for the same crime, you’re sentenced to probation or only a few days in jail. If the crime could have resulted in more than one year of jail time, under Federal law you are still unable to legally possess a gun

And this also holds true if your crime was not a Federal offense. The crime only needs to have a potential sentence of more than 365 days of jail time to take effect. 


California Penal Code 646.9 PC makes stalking a punishable crime. If you are currently under the order of a judge to stay away from someone who alleges you are stalking them, then under Federal law is it illegal for you to possess a firearm. 

Fugitive From the Law

A fugitive from justice is someone who flees to another state or country to escape being tried for a crime they’re charged with, or to try to hide from sentencing of a crime they’re convicted of. So say a California resident is charged with murder and they run off to another state or even try to leave the country. That would make them a fugitive from the law and unable to possess a gun under Federal law. 

Dishonorable Discharge

If you a member of the United States military found guilty of a serious offense like murder, sexual assault or desertion, you may be dishonorably discharged. A dishonorable discharge forfeits all benefits you may have received through the military, and also under Federal law means you cannot ever legally own a firearm

Illegal Alien

Federal law does not allow an illegal alien — someone who is living in the United States without the country's permission — to legally own or possess a gun. This could be someone who crossed the border to the United States without showing a passport or visa, or who somehow entered the country illegally. 

Renounced Citizenship

Say you moved to Paris, France 15 years ago. You love it there and you have no intention of moving back to the United States. Under Section 349(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), you may choose to renounce your citizenship from the United States in order to become a full citizen of France. Once you renounce your citizenship, you become an alien of the United States and under Federal law, cannot legally possess a firearm in the United States. 

Federal Gun Restrictions Questions

If you or a loved one need help understanding Federal gun restrictions, contact a criminal defense attorney knowledgeable on the subject. The H Law Group, serving Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, Ventura, or San Diego Counties, is here to help. Call us with your questions at (213) 370-0404. 

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